Masters begins in early morning gloom at Augusta National

Filed on November 12, 2020
Honorary starter and Masters champion Gary Player of South Africa plays his opening tee shot on the first tee as Honorary starter and Masters champion Jack Nicklaus of the United States looks on during the first round of the Masters at Augusta National Golf Club. — AFP

Rain is forecast for much of the morning

The 84th Masters began in a surreal atmosphere as starters Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player hit the ceremonial first tee shots in near darkness at Augusta National on Thursday.

Nicklaus and Player emerged from the clubhouse at 6.57 a.m., the exact minute of sunrise, and strode to the tee before daylight had even punctuated the gloom in a light drizzle, as a drone buzzed nearby to film the occasion.

Despite this being a Masters like no other, without paying spectators due to novel coronavirus concerns, several hundred people surrounded the tee, mostly members and their guests.

Augusta chairman Fred Ridley introduced the players, and Player was first to strike. Swinging better than an 85-year-old has any right to do, he took a full backswing and struck the ball down the left side of the fairway.

Nicklaus, 80, followed suit with a swing slightly shorter than in his heyday that brought him 18 major championships. He too found the fairway.

“I was pleased it was dark because you didn’t see where the ball went,” Nicklaus said.

And with that the first Masters played in autumn was officially underway, though the first tee times were delayed by 10 minutes until 7.10 a.m.

Rain is forecast for much of the morning, before clearing up and paving the way for fine weather over the rest of the tournament.

Tiger Woods is defending champion, while fellow American Bryson DeChambeau is the favourite.

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